With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 now in Houston and events being postponed and canceled, you might be wondering about the status of farmers markets and other places to get farm-fresh food.
Unless anything changes, Urban Harvest Farmers Market at St. John's School in Upper Kirby is scheduled to go on as planned. According to Director of Farmers Markets Tyler Horne, he and Urban Harvest officials spoke with city officials after Mayor Sylvester Turner's press conference Wednesday. Through their conversations, they concluded Urban Harvest's Saturday market plays the same role as a grocery store and should be open until further notice. (The Northeast Community Farmers Market on Lockwood Drive in Kashmere Gardens—held on the first and third Saturday of each month—will be canceled because of logistical issues.)
"We're doing some things to mitigate risk," says Horne, "and until we get more information that leads us to think we can't stay open, we're here."
Horne says, first, that if you're sick or showing any symptoms of being sick, don't come. Those who do come will find two hand-washing stations (a normal sight at the market), plus a directive of no samples and self-serve items. Also, all utensils will be pre-packaged, and customers are urged to point at what they want when at a vendor stand. To put it another way: Keep your hands to yourself.
"Certainly as a customer I'd feel better to not have 800 people touch the same tomato," Horne says.
If customers abide by those guidelines, Horne says the farmers market is far lower-risk shopping center than a busy indoor grocery store.
"The amount of hands involved in produce is always going to be significantly less than at a supermarket," he says.
No matter where you get your food, you should follow FDA guidelines regarding preparing fresh produce. The FDA says people should wash hands for 20 seconds before and after preparation; plus, wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating. (Do not use soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash.) Finally, scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush, and dry produce with a clean towel or paper towel.